On The List: Airborne Toxic Event @ Pianos [6.12.08]

Within about three seconds you can tell if a band is ready to blow your doors off or if they're just going to hang around and play some tunes. Airborne Toxic Event opened with "Papillon," maybe one of their less good songs, and it was still obvious they were ready to explode Pianos. Did they sound a little like The Hives? Sure. If The Hives were playing 1950s rock songs and had a working knowledge of the British post-punk scene of the 1980s. It's a profoundly post-modern pastiche of influence and it is fucking awesome.

Airborne Toxic Event play an eight-song set list which the drummer privately confides before the show, "we haven't used a set list in three years but we've got this really nice tour manager ..." before trailing off. The tour manager does look really nice and brings the band water. These are the marks of a band just trying out being bigger and bigger; you've got a publicist and you've got a tour manager and you're 3,000 miles from home with a room full of relative strangers. This can be difficult.

Most of the songs deal with disillusionment and heartbreak. The seminal and explosive "This Is Nowhere" is about the troubled and mercurial Silverlake scene in East Los Angeles. The lead-singer jokes, "you have one of those here too, right? One of those music scenes with a bunch of people completely mortgaging their futures - yeah, I heard that." He tells us that the band is "their life" and you have to believe him.

The band closes with "Innocence," after a fairly pumped up version of "Wishing Well." The song ends with a propulsive, thrashing conclusion. Even though it's not even 9pm and even though Pianos runs very much on time, the crowd stops the band from packing up with sustained applause. The sound tech is moved enough to let the band play one more song. This is relevant because New York crowds rarely work for anything and sound guys rarely give a shit. Perhaps, we just need a band with enough energy and earnesty to cut through the cynicism. Or maybe they were just that good. The band will open for The Fratellis the following evening and things will move on and become bigger and bigger. If there's one rock band to see on tour this summer, it's The Airborne Toxic Event. It means a lot to them and last night, it meant a lot to us.

[Photo credit: EGrossman 2008]

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